FAIRFAX, Va. -- Adding another layer of tragedy and desperation to the deaths of two Saudi sisters, New York City detectives said Friday the sisters from Fairfax County, Va. would rather kill themselves than return to their native country against their will.
The afternoon update came from NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, who said the new information developed from sources connected to the two sisters, 16-year-old Tala Farea and 23-year-old Rotana Farea.
Shea also unveiled the sisters were last seen by their Fairfax family members nearly a year ago, on Nov. 30, 2017.
New evidence also uncovered Tala and Rotana had stopped in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia before they were last seen alive in New York.
A jogger spotted the sisters with their heads in their hands, loudly praying by the Hudson River last month. Their lifeless bodies were then discovered Oct. 24, with no evidence of foul play discovered at this point.
Credit card records were able to provide a new timeline of the Farea sisters’ travels. Police said Aug. 24, 2018 is the last time they could confirm the sisters were in Virginia.
The sisters arrived in New York on Sept. 1, staying in a number of hotels. Officials said they are investigating the possibly the Fareas left Virginia to flee family abuse.
“We have reports that asylum was requested, we also have reports of abuse involving the family,” Shea said at the New York news conference. “This is not corroborated at this time from us, but there are reports of abuse, between the brother, the mother and the father that have been brought to our attention.”
A clearer picture of the girls’ final moment emerged, with new details publicly disclosed from an eyewitness exercising in Manhattan’s Riverside Park.
“He came across in a playground within Riverside Park two girls sitting about 30 ft. apart. He described them as alone,” Shea said.
“They were sitting with their hands in their heads, their heads lowered, and they were making noises loudly, which he described as praying.”
The sisters were discovered duct taped together, their bodies next to rocks and a Hudson River pier.
Tala and Rotana moved to the United States from Saudi Arabia with their mother in 2015, making a new home in Fairfax.
When the two left Fairfax last November, authorities said they were living in a shelter. By the time their bodies were found, police said their credit cards had been maxed out.
“We have them recovered on video in apparently good health during this time as recently as a week before they were discovered,” Shea said.
“But we have statements made that they would rather inflict harm on themselves, and commit suicide, than return to Saudi Arabia.”
Their mother told police she received a call from the Saudi government in October telling the family they had to go back to Saudi Arabia because the sisters had applied for immigration asylum in America.
CBS News has learned evidence shows the sisters were alive when they entered the water. The results of toxicology reports have yet to be released.